In 1993, a false allegation of homosexuality was held to be defamatory. Nazeri at 312. It is not clear whether this would still be actionable now.
In order to find that a publication is defamatory, it must "be unequivocally so" and the words "should be construed in their most innocent sense." Walker v. Kan. City Star Co., 406 S.W. 44, 51 (Mo. 1966). In Ampleman v. Schweppe, 972 S.W.2d 329 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998), the court stated that "if a statement is capable of two meanings (one defamatory and one nondefamatory), and can reasonably be construed in an innocent sense, the court must hold the statement nonactionable as a matter of law." Id. at 333.
Of and Concerning the Plaintiff
Even if the plaintiff is readily identifiable in a particular publication, the plaintiff cannot sue for defamation unless the libelous portion of the publication is directed at him. May v. Greater Kansas City Dental, 863 S.W.2d 941, 945 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993).
In order to recover for defamation, a public official/figure is required to show that the defendant acted with actual malice. Actual malice requires a showing that the libelous statements were published with actual knowledge of falsity or in reckless disregard as to whether the statement as true or not. The Missouri Supreme Court has equated recklessness with disregard of the truth with subjective awareness of probable falsity. There must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication. Glover v. Herald Co. 549 S.W.2d 858, 862 (Mo. 1977) (en banc).
Application of the actual malice standard in defamation cases in Missouri is not limited to statements regarding public officials' performance of official acts. A public figure's private conduct is, in some cases, a matter of public concern. Westhouse v. Biondo, 990 S.W.2d 68 (Mo. Ct. App. 1999).